Education Policy and Realist Social Theory: Primary Teachers, Child-Centred Philosophy, and the New Managerialism

By Robert Willmott | Go to book overview

Introduction

And the one thing I hate is this thing with Value for Money…

(Pat, head-teacher, Westside primary school)

This encapsulates the monumental changes that have occurred in education in England and Wales since the promulgation of the 1988 Education Reform Act. At present, all primary schools are subject to 'market forces' and the commodification of the people who work in them. Hence the head's invective against the monetary valorisation of education. In essence, the commodifying logic expunges child-centred philosophy and practice. However, the quasi-marketisation of the education system in England and Wales, undertaken by the Conservative Government during the 1980s, has not only been consolidated but also extended by New Labour. As Jenny Ozga puts it:

In England and Wales, as elsewhere in Europe…we have seen the displacement of the old model of welfare state provision. In England and Wales, perhaps to a greater extent than elsewhere, that welfare state has been replaced by the operation of the market under the Conservative Governments of 1979-1997. The process of reformation continues in the modernizing agenda of New Labour.

(Ozga 2000:54)

This modernising agenda is pursued within the framework of economic competitiveness as the defining aim of education. The Managerialist philosophy that underpinned the 1988 Education Reform Act has now reached its zenith in national target setting, Education Action Zones and the primacy of OFSTED (Office for Standards in Education). The latter constitutes a key contradiction for primary school teachers committed to child-centred learning. Using Margaret Archer's (1995) morphogenetic approach, this book examines the backdrop to the new managerialist restructuring of education and provides an in-depth analysis of the ways in which two primary schools - one deemed 'failing' and the other 'successful' by OFSTED - mediate the objective contradiction between child-centred philosophy and the new managerialism as embodied in SATs (Standard Assessment Tasks), league tables, the National Curriculum and national target setting.

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